February 8, 2024

Alexander Aspuru has worked as a level 2 teacher at The New England Center for Children (NECC) since August 2021. He was nominated by a colleague because “Alex is consistently implementing IEP classes for his students, especially self-help TAs! He always has a positive demeanor on shift, interacts wonderfully with students, and is a great role model when it comes to following NECC and team guidelines. He is also a strong teacher and an awesome team player!”

How long have you worked for NECC?

I’ve worked at NECC since August 2021. I started as a level 2 teacher on ITT 1, took on a clinical role and as the backup core shift manager (CSM) on ITT 3, and am now a level 2 teacher on IIP Cohort D. 

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is the students. Even on hard days, it’s a blessing to work with them. It brings me joy to think about everything they’ve accomplished. There are few things sweeter than seeing a student work toward their highest potential and knowing that you had a small part in that success.

Why did you choose a career in helping children with autism?

In high school and college, I was a fan of Kenzaburo Oe’s novels and short stories. My favorite book of all time is Oe’s 1964 semi-autobiographical novel A Personal Matter. The book is about a young father coming to terms with the birth of his son, who is born with significant developmental delays. Oe wrote this book shortly after the birth of his son Hikari, who was born with developmental delays and who has a limited verbal repertoire. Oe has stated that his work since his son’s birth has been an attempt to give him a voice. When Oe was speaking to journalists in 2014 about Hikari, he stated that “…although I myself am perhaps quite a dark novelist, I believe that also my novels show a kind of trust in human beings. And this has come from my son.”

The love Oe feels for his son and the drive to find ways to give his son a voice is what inspired me to try out the field of behavior analysis. I started volunteering at the IBIS early intervention clinic at the University of Miami in 2018. While I wasn’t surprised that I liked the work (I’ve always enjoyed working with children), I was surprised by how meaningful I found the work and how proud I felt of my students for overcoming their challenges and gaining the skills to show their personalities and character. 


I chose NECC because of the Center’s reputation for providing effective and compassionate care to students facing intense challenges. Before NECC, I worked at a smaller clinic in South Florida. While I was happy at the clinic, and the BCBAs who ran the clinic were exceptional practitioners, the clinic, and most clinics in Florida, did not have the resources to implement intensive interventions. Not only did I want to work somewhere that had the material capacity to implement resource intense interventions, but I also wanted to learn how to implement those interventions. NECC was a perfect fit for these goals.

Have you taken advantage of any of the grad programs or teacher training at NECC? If so, how has it affected your teaching style?

I’m in my third year of the Western New England University (WNEU) master’s program in applied behavior analysis (ABA) and am part of Dr. William Ahearn’s Automatic Reinforcement Research Group. I’m currently conducting a research study on assessing and treating anxiety in teens and young adults with communication deficits. 

My experience in WNEU’s research-intensive program has made me more comfortable conducting assessments and interventions when working with students and using behavior data to curate lessons based on my students’ needs and learning styles. Almost all courses in the program have also put a big emphasis on giving our students opportunities to use their agency. The program has taught me how to give my students the freedom to buy into behavioral contingencies, to create an environment where my students express their preferences for what classes and subjects they want to learn, and to build rapport and trust with my students by honoring their preferences.

What is something about you that your colleagues might be surprised to learn?

I’m a very big tabletop role-playing game (RPG) nerd. I was a dungeon master (DM) and ran a multi-year Dungeons and Dragons (DND) 5e campaign that started during the pandemic (it was about a SPOOKY vampire). I’ve also run sessions of other RPGs like Call of Cthulhu 7e, GURPS 4e, and Magical Kitties Save the Day 2e. 

DND has actually helped me at my job. Important aspects of the hobby include effective improvisation skills, group management, and keeping players interested during RPG sessions. Practicing those skills has improved my ability to build rapport with students and get them more engaged with their lessons. 

I’ve had a half-baked idea about organizing a DND session for students. DND has been used by other therapeutic and educational fields, and it would be a fun way for some students to practice appropriate socializing, reading comprehension, and language skills. However, I’m prioritizing my research project for the time being, so the idea is staying half-baked for now. 

Who do you look up to?

I look up to my students. We all do hard work at NECC, but no one is working harder than the students. We clock out at the end of our shifts, but our students are constantly working on meeting their goals and overcoming challenges that have come their way. 

I also look up to many of my supervisors and coworkers. I’ve been fortunate to work with so many competent practitioners, teachers, and leaders at NECC who truly give all that they can to the students. Seeing their strength has made me stronger.

What is your life philosophy or motto you like to live by?

“When you can’t think of anything to do, you must do something.”